I have recently been accepted as a major in Physics to UCR, UCI, and UCSB. I know that UCSB is the highest ranked of all the UC's in Physics particularly (except Berkeley, which I did not get in to), but my main dilemma here is that there are other factors in play. With where I live, I could attend UCR while staying at home. I was also offered a $2,000 per year scholarship there. This drops the price for attending UCR low enough that my parents could pay for my entire education, debt-free. However, UCR is also known as being the very bottom of the UC system (except Merced.) If I attend either UCI or UCSB (UCI being closer to where I live but lower ranked), I will need to live on campus. This shoots the price up to $35,000 a year, and I have not been offered scholarships by either. Doing the math, it turns out that if I attend either of these, I will finish my education with anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000 of debt to pay off assuming that I am able to get in to and complete graduate school as well. So, my question is this: How much does the school's reputation, both in general as a school and in physics, matter? Is 50k-60k dollars of debt worth getting a degree from a university that is ranked highly both as a school in general and in physics (UCSB ranked ~12 for physics, UCI ranked ~35, while UCR is ranked between 100-150)? Or is it better to have no debt at all, get an undergraduate degree from UCR, then seek to make it in to graduate school at a better university? Especially if I want to go down an academic path, which I know is very competitive in physics, and would be helped by having a more prestigious degree. I am also under the impression that UCI and UCSB will have more opportunities for me as an aspiring physicist, versus UCR. Opinions?